Brett Moffitt says he has always been ready for anything during his racing career.
How about a near instantaneous transformation into a full-time driver in NASCAR’s premier Sprint Cup Series?
Moffitt’s ascension to the top ranks of NASCAR hasn’t come as planned, or by what anyone would consider a traditional approach. And there’s no guarantee it will last the entire season.
But this is about the here and now.
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And now, Moffitt, a 22-year-old Iowa native, is sitting on top of the (racing) world.
“It’s been pretty wild. I went into the season knowing I only had one Cup race, at Atlanta, and then that one race was a really good one,” said Moffitt, who finished eighth at the Hampton, Ga., track in Michael Waltrip Racing’s No. 55 Toyota.
That “really good” performance at Atlanta turned into more opportunities with Front Row Motorsports at Las Vegas and Phoenix, substituting for regular driver David Ragan, who was substituting for the injured Kyle Busch at Joe Gibbs Racing.
Two weeks ago, the No. 55 team’s regular driver, Brian Vickers, was forced to step out of the car again with another incident with blood clots.
That brought Moffitt back where he started, and where he remains, entering Saturday night’s Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
“This is certainly not how I wanted to get the extra races, but at the same time, I need to capitalize on it and make the most of the opportunity,” Moffitt said. “It’s definitely been a crazy start to the season all around. You hate to see that injury or illness are the circumstances of why someone gets to run races but at the same time, the drivers who fill-in get to show their talent when they do get the opportunity.”
MWR has hoped to develop a third full-time ride for Moffitt and keep him under contract, allowing him to explore opportunities with other teams when there are none available at MWR.
No decision has been made on a permanent replacement for Vickers, or whether he will be able to return to driving.
In the meantime, Moffitt continues to gain experience, but not always under the most ideal circumstances.
Entering this season, he had made 10 starts in NASCAR’s three national series – Cup, Xfinity and Trucks. The vast majority of his NASCAR experience has come in the K&N Pro Series East, a regional developmental series.
The past two weeks – at Fontana, Calif., and Martinsville, Va. – Moffitt has raced on tracks he was seeing for the first time.
“There’s been a lot that’s gone on for me this season that’s totally new. Even when I raced full time in K&N or in Late Models, there would be like 12-to-20 races per year,” he said. “Now all of the sudden, you’re racing every week, being gone from Thursday to Sunday night. I guess you could say it requires a lot more mental strength.”
Last weekend was NASCAR’s first off weekend of the season, and couldn’t have come at a better time for Moffitt.
“It was a great reset button,” he said. “It was nice to take some time to evaluate what we’ve done so far and look at what we need to do moving forward.
“The past two tracks were ones I’d never been to and were kind of a handful. I’ve raced at Texas and given how we ran (on a similar track) at Atlanta, I’m really excited to see what we can do this weekend.”
Given the uncertainty with which Moffitt started the year, how could he not be?
Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter